One of the most noticable objects in the Pacific storeroom is the 7 foot tall Marquesan Temple Drum. This drum is from the Marqueses Islands, and was acquired by the Field Museum around 1920. This type of drum is incredibly rare, and three or four that exisit worldwide are part of museum collections. Traditionally the drum was placed on the ground in front of a temple. Someone would then climb up the temple steps, and could then easily play the drum from their elevated position. Since the few of these drums that do exsist are in museums, the Marquesan people have begun to lose the knowledge of how to make them. Modern temple drums are different--they are smaller, are made using different techniques, and different material. Originally the head of the drum was created using shark skin, however today sharks in this area are endangered, and it is not possible to kill them for their skins. When the scanner arrived at the Field Museum to scan several of the mummies in the museum's collections it was decided that the drum should be scanned as well. For the first time it would be possible to see what the inside of the drum looked like, and to more fully understand how it was created.
This drum has been at the musueum for almost 100 years, and it shows. Since it is rapidly deteriorating it needed to be moved with the utmost care. The first challenge was to lay the drum flat from its standing position. With enough people, however, laying the 220 pound drum flat and transferring it to the gurney was easily done. It took several tries to position the drum so it could be scanned in its entirety, yet this challenge was overcome as well. The scanner was able to show us that the drum is carved out hollow on the inside almost the entire way down, yet tapers so that as the hollow opening approaches the ground it becomes more narrow . The drum is now safely back in storage, and looking well after its excursion.
The images produced by the scanner of the drum are essential in fostering a close relationship between the museum and the people of the Marqeuses Islands. Many locals had expressed interest in examining the Field Museum's drum in order to create one that more closely resembled the drums their ancestors used. Now that dream is even closer to becoming a reality. By analyzing the drum itself, and the scanned images it is possible to make a drum almost identicle to it. Some obstacle do still exist, such as the inability to obtain shark skin, but the Marquesan people interested in creating structures the way they used to be made now have a feasible way of accomplishing that dream.
To learn more about the Marquesan Temple Drum and the Museum's Marquesan collections please visit here: https://sites.google.com/a/fieldmuseum.org/pacific-web/Home/partnerships/marquesan-drum
To learn more about the Field Museum's Pacific collections please visit: https://sites.google.com/a/fieldmuseum.org/pacific-web/